GORKIY Goes To Norway Blog

Orient Lines

Ocean Liner Society

Phoenix Seereisen

MAXIM GORKIY Decked! — A Top To Bottom History and Tour Of Phoenix Seereisen’s SS MAXIM GORKIY (ex HAMBURG, HANSEATIC). Coming Soon!

Ocean Liner Fittings, Furniture and Art For Sale at MidShipCentury.com

Peter Knego Videos Link: ON THE ROAD TO ALANG and THE WORLD’s PASSENGER FLEET, Volume Nine

New! Peter Knego’s 2009 Passenger Ships Calendar! Includes two views of MAXIM GORKIY…

Please click on image to open a larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2008 unless otherwise noted.

Finished 10-1-08

January 8, 2009 Update: Following the “non-start” of Orient Lines, the MAXIM GORKIY was laid up at Piraeus after discharging her last Phoenix passenger on October 30, 2008. On January 8, it was reported that she was sold for scrap at Alang and being readied for her final voyage to the breakers.

February 27, 2009 Update: MAXIM GORKIY was beached at Alang on February 25, 2009 at 04:12 AM.


My latest journey was booked through the U.K.-based Ocean Liner Society, which sponsors an annual cruise on board a vintage vessel. This year’s choice was the gorgeous, 1969-built steamship MAXIM GORKIY, which has been sailing for nearly 20 years with German charterer Phoenix Seereisen. The company operates soley in the German market and the MAXIM GORKIY is usually filled to the last berth, so it was quite an extraordinary opportunity for the lot of some 20 British and European ship lovers, my two American friends and myself, especially since the MAXIM GORKIY will cease operating in November.

German Atlantic Line’s SS HAMBURG, as built.

Although we did not think so at the time of booking, there is, fortunately, life ahead for the handsome ship. She began her career as German Atlantic Lines’ TSS HAMBURG for a short period of transatlantic crossings before becoming a full-time, deluxe cruise ship in the early 1970s. There will be a comprehensive Decked! history and tour of the HAMBURG/MAXIM GORKIY soon, so I will save most details for that page.

A childhood clipping from the Los Angeles Times for the film, JUGGERNAUT. Peter Knego collection.

With the mid-1970s fuel crisis as a final blow, the popular and highly-rated HAMBURG, which was never a huge revenue-generator (partly due to her high operating costs and low passenger density), was renamed HANSEATIC in late 1973 after the sale of her running mate of the same name (ex SHALOM). She completed one cruise as HANSEATIC before being put on the block, with bids coming in from Germany, Japan and the U.S., but ultimately went to the Soviets, for whom she would be the most prestigious passenger ship ever to hoist the hammer and sickle. Before taking the name MAXIM GORKIY, she enjoyed a starring role in the Sir Lew Grade thriller, “Juggernaut”, a tense terrorist yarn starring Omar Sharif, Richard Harris, a few well-timed explosions and some wonderful footage of the ship (under the name BRITANNIC) plunging through a stormy North Sea.

SS MAXIM GORKIY in Black Sea Steamship Company’s colors. Peter Knego collection.

Although “Juggernaut” was not a huge box office smash (it did enjoy some good reviews and is well worth a rental), the MAXIM GORKIY was quite a success in her new post-German career. She even did some U.S.-based cruises along with a handful of other Soviet ships (including the ferry KAZAKHSTAN and the handsome ODESSA) before taking on a long-term charter to German-owned Neckermann Seereisen.

SS MAXIM GORKIY at Los Angeles in Sovcomflot livery.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the MAXIM GORKIY’s funnel was given a blue and red band with a stylized “SCF”, which represented her then owners, Sovcomflot. Since 1988, she has been under charter to Phoenix Seereisen, who gave her their turquoise livery in 2004. Sadly, Phoenix cancelled MAXIM GORKIY’s scheduled 2008-2009 season of long voyages and replaced it with a series of cruises in Europe, wrapping up the popular ship’s charter this November when she arrives at Venice for the final time. High operating costs, again in play with yet another fuel crisis, had struck again.

SS MAXIM GORKIY departs San Francisco on her final visit in the winter of 2004.

Although scrap merchants have been eyeing her, newly-reformed Orient Lines stepped in this summer to announce it’s purchase of the GORKIY for a return to service (at slower speeds and on port-intensive itineraries) next spring as MARCO POLO II.

Digital rendering of MAXIM GORKIY as MARCO POLO II.

Three cheers to the new Orient Lines’ principals (President and CEO Wayne Heller and Executive Vice President Bruce Nierenberg) for saving a wonderful ship, whose vintage charm is perhaps even greater and more precious today than ever!

Now, on with the blog….

Friday, September 19, 2008

One day, I hope we will look safely back on this era
of economy jet travel with the same distant fascination we now hold for steerage class in the great liners of the twentieth century. Until then, sitting upright for periods of eight to ten hours or more with legs crammed into the seat ahead, dreary food, the aroma of an adjacent lavatory and the screeching of uncontrolled toddlers will remain a dreaded but inescapable part of long overseas journeys.

After this latest transatlantic airborne escapade from Moorpark, CA via Chicago and Frankfurt, finally arriving in the great city of Hamburg to stay on the CAP SAN DIEGO (see EURODAM blog for more images and a description of this wonderful ship) was a much anticipated treat.

CAP SAN DIEGO, cabin 6, facing starboard.

CAP cake.

My traveling companion, Mike Masino, and I joined Seven Seas Societys’ Hamburg-based Oliver Mueller at the Cafe Gnosa for a late, light lunch before retiring to the former Hamburg-Sud cargo liner. We booked a single cabin, #6, with a roll-away bed for a mere Euro 87 (cash only basis). The starboard side accommodation was like a first class cabin on a bonafide passenger ship with two large brass windows that opened onto a view of Hamburg’s colorful waterfront. Lustrous wainscotting, a heavy mahogany table and an olive green velvet sofa were all original fixtures, along with wonderful wooden cabinetry built into the bulkheads. The w/c even featured a large bath and, despite the ship being full with a wedding function and live music, we had the built-in benefit of soundproofing, thanks to an additional door in the cabin’s long entryway.

STETTIN on the Elbe.

Although the lovely lounge, bar and dining room were occupied by wedding guests, there was space on the foredeck to enjoy a rather unusual sunset as the blood-red sun appeared momentarily from the gray sky to vanish into the horizon beyond the Blohm and Voss shipyard across the River Elbe. The 1933-built ice-breaker STETTIN, preserved at Hamburg since almost being scrapped in 1981, blew her whistle as she sailed past.

Night CAP at Hamburg.

My second traveling companion, Christopher Kyte, booked a similar single cabin, #2, for a mere 72 Euros. He arrived at sundown after a long transcontinental commute, joining me on a walk around the CAP SAN DIEGO and along the adjacent waterfront before we called it a night.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CAP SAN DIEGO, starboard promenade, facing forward.

We left CAP SAN DIEGO just before 9:00 AM to catch the train from Hamburg via Bremen to Bremerhaven. All in all, it was a pretty smooth 90 minute journey, considering Mike had been disabled by a recently sprained ankle. Commuting through throngs of people with luggage and a wheelchair can be quite a challenge but we found most everyone helpful and considerate. Once at Bremerhaven, a coach from the train station was available for 5 Euros to take us on a rather circuitous ride, thanks to construction on the main access bridge, to the passenger terminal.

Blog In A Blog: Visit to MV ALBATROS at Bremerhaven.

owners: Club Cruise, Nassau
charterers: Phoenix Seereisen
28,518 gross tons
674 by 82.7 feet/205 by 25 meters
1,200 passengers
Built by Wartsila, Helsinki, hull number 397

MV ALBATROS at Bremerhaven.


Before embarking MAXIM GORKIY, Oliver had arranged a visit the 1973-built MV ALBATROS, which was berthed stern to stern with MAXIM GORKIY. The ALBATROS was originally the 21,848 gross ton, 583 foot, 536 passenger ROYAL VIKING SEA, which was “stretched” to 28,018 gross tons with the addition of a 91 foot prefabricated mid-section in 1983 that increased her capacity to 812. She later served as Royal Cruise Line’s second ROYAL ODYSSEY, NCL’s first NORWEGIAN STAR and the Shanghai-based casino ship CROWN before replacing Phoenix Seereisen’s first ALBATROS (ex SYLVANIA, FAIRWIND, DAWN PRINCESS) in 2004. Overall, the ship is in good condition, aside from some minor wear and tear on her upper decks and fading Royal/NCL furnishings and soft fittings that detract from her once elegant Royal Viking charm.

MV ALBATROS mast and nameboard from port Sonnen Deck.

ALBATROS has eight passenger decks, beginning at the top with Sun Deck (10) and continuing down via Jupiter Deck (9), Apollo Deck (8), Promanaden Deck (7), Salon Deck (6), Orion Deck (5), Saturn Deck (4) and Neptun Deck (3). Sun Deck wraps itself around three deck houses, providing forward observation from the top of the ship, a sports court and golf driving range.

MV ALBATROS Royal Viking jacuzzi trio, facing forward from aft Jupiter Deck.

MV ALBATROS over stern from Jupiter Deck.

Jupiter Deck contains the Karibik Lounge, which overlooks the bow from atop the wheelhouse, a block of suites, and a trio of jaccuzzis (added during the Royal Viking “stretch” in 1983).

MV ALBATROS port promenade, facing aft.

Apollo Deck begins with the wheelhouse and officers’ accommodation. It also contains a section of cabins, a salon, spa, and fitness center. Promenaden Deck features a lovely, cambered teak wrap-around promenade, cabins, an internet center, wintergarden, the Casablanca Bar and Disco and Harry’s Bar, which overlooks the pool area.

MV ALBATROS aft Deck 6, facing forward.

MV ALBATROS, Atlantik Lounge, facing aft.

Salon Deck features the galley and the two restaurants, Pelikan (forward) and Mowe (aft), as well as the Atlantik Lounge and Bar, which opens to the pool area at the stern. The decor in this part of the ship largely dates from the Royal Cruise Line refit by AMK in 1995. Orion Deck contains cabins and the reception area, while Saturn Deck contains the Theater and more cabins, with Neptun Deck wrapping it up/down with more accommodation and the hospital.

Kay Korbing light fixture aboard MV ALBATROS.

Only traces of the original Royal Viking decor remain. Far up in the Karibik Lounge, there are some Kay Korbing ceiling and wall fixtures as well as a carved wooden bowsprit.

A largely original RVL ALBATROS outside cabin, facing starboard.

MV ALBATROS totally random carpet convergence.

GORKIY greetings!

Oliver and I proceeded from ALBATROS to MAXIM GORKIY in time to document some cabins before regular embarkation started at 3:00 PM, then disembarked so I could join Mike and Christopher to re-embark as full-fledged passengers.

Senior Tillberg architect, Jim O’Shaughnessy, on board MAXIM GORKIY.

At the gangway, we were able to say a quick hello to Tillberg U.S.A.’s senior architect, Jim O’Shaughnessy, as he and chief Orient Lines executives, Wayne Heller and Bruce Nierenberg were disembarking. Their team had just completed several days on board to determine what will be required to retrofit the ship for SOLAS 2010 regulations and her next career as MARCO POLO II. Hopefully, some details and updates will be forthcoming on MaritimeMatters.

Cabin 484, facing port.

We were led down the midships stairtower to Neptune (5) Deck, then aft along the wide central passageway to Cabin 484, a twin portholed outside on the aft/port side. A double with an upper pullman, a lower berth and a convertible sofa, it was plenty large enough to accommodate the three of us with a large dresser, night stand, table, two chairs and three large closets. Even with a wheelchair and a third person, space was not an issue.

MAXIM Musiksalon, facing starboard.

A welcome snack (small salads, cole slaw, a roast, desserts, tea, finger sandwiches) was offered in the Musiksalon on forward Promenaden Deck, so we “plottzed” ourselves there for some nibbles to sustain us until dinner at 7:30. The Musiksalon has been redone in recent years and, while comfortable and functional as the ship’s show room, is not one of the MAXIM GORKIY’s most beautiful spaces, having lost its vintage allure in the process of modernization. This is one space th
at the new owners will hopefully improve when she becomes MARCO POLO II.

MV ALBATROS departs Bremerhaven.

Meanwhile, over on the ALBATROS, Andreas Geiges took this view of the GORKIY. Photo and copyright Andreas Geiges 2008.

GORKIY Sunset in Bremerhaven.

MAXIM sailing day sunset.

There was time for the three of us to unpack before heading up to the open decks for the dual sail-away. With both ALBATROS and the GORKIY due to depart at 7:00 PM, we watched as ALBATROS made the first move, tugs alongside, and thrusters pushing her away from the quay. As the sun lowered off her port side, she dashingly saluted and sailed off on a six night cruise to Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Bye, bye, Bremerhaven!

We followed shortly thereafter, with bow pivoting starboard and plumes of black smoke emittting regularly from the saucer atop the ship’s magnificent funnel. Auld Lang Syne was playing over the sound system as MAXIM GORKIY began her final round-trip cruise from Bremerhaven to visit Norway for the last time in her present incarnation. The cruise director, Klaus Grushka, provided a dulcet commentary in soft-spoken but impassioned German. I had no idea what he was saying, but enjoyed it immensely, watching as teary-eyed fellow passengers took it all in. Bremerhaven’s long terminal and towering cranes were soon in our wake as we finally headed down for dinner.

Crimea Restaurant, facing starboard/aft.

Our group was assigned a cluster of tables in the aft/port section of the Crimea Restaurant down on Restaurant Deck. Due to the “tween” deck arrangement that provides extra ceiling height in the forward portion of the ship, the midships stairtower leading to the Crimea was a bit confounding, to say the least. We would have five more nights to hopefully figure out the best way to get around it.

The Crimea is a pleasant, if not original, space. Along with the Sea Restaurant, just forward, it was damaged when the MAXIM GORKIY partially sank after hitting an iceberg at Spitzbergen in 1989 and had to be rebuilt. The resulting decor is somewhat generic with wood-toned veneers and seating with Phoenix’s blue and turquoise soft fittings.

The menus in all three of the GORKIY’s restaurants are identical, although it could be argued the ambiance in the Odessa Restaurant, up one level on Neptun Deck, is slightly nicer with its central recess and natural light via clusters of portholes on either side. It, too, received a refit that obliterated the original, uber-stylish HAMBURG fittings in 1993 in favor of generic faux woods and blue/turquoise soft fittings.

Our stout but sweet trio of waitresses, headed by red-haired Tataniya, hailed from the Ukraine and were hard-working, if a bit flummoxed at first by having to serve a group of English-speaking passengers. Remarkably and very kindly, the maitre’d and staff provided us with specially-printed English menus, streamlining the process of ordering considerably.

Phoenix provides pitchers of red and white wine at dinner, free of charge, although bottled mineral water must be purchased. Fruit juices are complimentary and there are cold appetizers, a soup, hot appetizers, a main course, and a dessert, as well as coffee (which must be ordered all at once). My selections were a herring salad appetizer with apples, onion and sour cucumbers, a mustard soup with cinnamon croutons, a grilled salmon main course in spicy leek-tomato sauce with spinach and parsley potatoes and straciatella ice cream with fresh honey melon and cream. Other courses included beef broth, ham with safron cream sauce, beef with red pepper and a grilled chicken breast. The vegetable alternative was a roasted veggie burger in leek-tomato sauce with parsley potatoes.

Tired from our journey, we fizzled after visiting briefly with members of our group, missing the evening’s entertainment options in favor of some sought after sleep. Aside from the rhythmic vibration of the port screw underneath us, it was hard to tell the silent GORKIY was actually moving as she made her way across the North Sea, a body of water that has taken a wicked toll on my sea legs in the past.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Announcements began blasting over the sound system at 7:00 AM, so I shut off the intercom and lay in bed for a while, staring at the ceiling as the North Sea gently lapped outside our twin portholes. Room service arrived at 9:00 AM with a tray of muesli, coffee, tea and yogurt for three.

MAXIM GORKIY Fitness Center, facing port.

Despite the calm, I had a rather restless night of sleep, so I forced myself into the waking world with a workout in the Fitness Center, which has plenty of cardio equipment and a view of the port promenade. It was a bit tricky to find via the maze of stairs and corridors in the midships ‘tween deck space on Lido Deck.

I took advantage of the rest of the morning by photographing the GORKIY’s gorgeous, mostly unaltered, MidCentury Modern midships Promenaden Deck interiors, which begin aft of the Musiksalon and continue all the way back to the Cinema.

Forward gallery of Volga Bar, facing forward.

Although ten years newer, the original spaces on the Georg Manner designed GORKIY are like those of the 1959-built SS ROTTERDAM: functional sanctuaries of purposeful sea going decor that have stood the t
est of time.

Volga Bar enamel table top detail.

On the port side aft of the modernized and decoratively vapid Musiksalon, there is the magnificent Volga Bar, fronted by a long gallery of angular booth seating as well as a cluster of cocktail tables and chairs with a view of the sea through stylish rounded rectangular windows. On the inboard side, rich wood paneling abounds with original olive green abstract suede artworks on the forward bulkhead around the double doors, inset in three alcoves between the booths and adorning the aft bulkhead behind the grand piano. Rectangular lucite light fixtures on white marble bases add to the room’s slightly “mod” ambiance. Although the wood paneling will have to go to comply with SOLAS 2010, hopefully a nice simulation can be substituted. Otherwise, only new soft fittings are needed to restore the space to its cozy vintage splendor, which is more “in” now than ever with MidCentury Modern decor enjoying a huge Renaissance.

Volga Bar, facing forward/starboard.

The aft portion of the Volga Bar steps inboard to accommodate the forward/port Wintergarden. It is reminiscent of the gallery style bars on the luxurious Scandinavian cruise liners GRIPSHOLM, KUNGSHOLM, SAGAFJORD and VISTAFJORD, all of which ran in five star competion with the MAXIM GORKIY in her HAMBURG heyday. Beautiful deep blue and white ceramics dramatically lit from a recessed alcove under the bar counter, more lush paneling, rounded booth seating on the outboard side and vividly colored enameled lamps make this one of the most chic and attractive spaces afloat. More floating perfection in need of nothing more than some attractive carpeting and a sensitive substitute for the woodwork that SOLAS has so frustratingly doomed.

Magnificent MidCentury MAXIM: original chairs and table in Promenaden Deck Gallerie.

The aft portion of this room opens onto the wide midships Gallerie, which will become MARCO POLO II’s casino.

Library, facing forward.

The Library is immediately aft of the Musiksalon on the starboard side. A photo montage of the December 2-3, 1989 Malta Summit is on one of its bulkheads, depicting U.S. president George H.W. Bush and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the historic meeting that took place on board MAXIM GORKIY off Malta’s Marsaxlokk Harbour to symbolize the end of the Cold War. Decoratively, it is a gorgeous paean to the best of 1969-style Modern decor with moulded ceiling tiles, angled cornices, more rich wood paneling, stylish chrome-legged cocktail tables with marble tops inlaid with checkerboards and lovely blown glass original artworks (a blue one on the inboard forward bulkhead) and a red one aft. Another timeless space that needs nothing more than new soft fittings and some sensitively-chosen, simulated woodwork to carry it beyond 2010.

Zhiguli Club, facing aft.

With its dramatic hollowed ellipse of a wall separating the aft inboard and outboard portions of the room, the Zhiguli Club may be the MAXIM GORKIY’s most iconic space. Smoke free, it is a lovely, quiet lounge with a large semi-circular banquette of seating with custom-designed cocktail tables forward, picture windows overlooking the sea and a large globe set on an octagonal marble plinth. Matching enameled steel lamps, a variety of chrome-legged cocktail tables and more rich wood paneling enrich this room, which connects to the Libary, just forward. Again, many fingers are crossed for a sensitive refit that will keep everything intact here, save for the wood and maybe the carpeting.

Lido Restaurant, facing forward/port.

With another five days ahead to complete documenting MAXIM GORKIY, I took a break to join Mike and Christopher in the Lido Restaurant for lunch. The small space accommodates a large number of passengers relatively comfortably with both indoor and outdoor seating, the latter sheltered around the recess of the ship’s heated Sun Deck pool. Soup, fish, meat, cold cuts, various salads, fruits, a selection of teas and coffee and dessert are available from the inboard counter. The original white tiled decor was replaced in recent years with simulated wood when the room was converted from a bar to a more functional self-service restaurant.

Mandatory safety drill came next, so we donned life jackets and lined up outside our cabin on Neptun Deck, following a procession of fellow passengers assigned to lifeboat 10, up the stairs to aft port Lido Deck to stand under the boat until the exercise was over.

Funnel from starboard.

Ocean Liner Society photo standoff on port Lido Deck with professor Bruce Peter and the lovely, ex Union-Castle purserette, Ann Haynes, positioned on the right.

Even though the Germans tend to be camera-happy, the Ocean Liner Society group must have stood out prominently with its gaggle of cameras and tripods, capturing endless footage of the deck areas and funnel, a work of art and late 1960s monument to Space Age originality. From some angles, it evokes Seattle’s Space Needle; at times, it almost resembles a six fingered hand holding a tray, or, perhaps, an hourglass, if not an elongated, abstract Maltese cross (the symbol of German Atlantic Line).

North Sea portal.

Many of us noticed the ship’s intermittent shuttering as her unusual exhaust disposal system blew smuts into the sea instead of the air above.

MAXIM GORKIY sliced northward through the North Sea, which gradually stirred from its morning millpond serenity into a relatively vigorous Force 4 or 5, giving her a tendency to pitch by early evening. As a precaution, I took a meclizine tablet, then uploaded and resized photos before heading to the Musiksalon for Russian Tea with music by the ship’s skilled musicians, Labyrinth.

At dinner, I was intrigued by the filled courgettes with tofu veggie course, so enjoyed it along with a heaping of the salad bar offerings, champagne granité with mint, and Romanoff ice cream (strawberries with vanilla ice cream and vodka). Others partook of the bountiful meat dishes, including pork and beef medallions, oxtail soup and poultry liver.

A show featuring some virtuostic balalaika playing by Labyrinth in the Musiksalon proved a bit too hot and smoky for me, so, under the hypnotic effects of meclizine, I depressed a group of fellow shiplovers in the Volga Bar with images of last month’s visit to Alangggggg…

I ended the evening in the Rossiya Lounge with a midnight snack as MAXIM GORKIY lurched and creaked her way to Vik, Norway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Double hour glass.

I stumbled up to the Lido Deck at 7:30 as MAXIM GORKIY anchored in the pristine gloom off the Norwegian town of Vik. A large group of passengers would be tendering for an overland excursion to Flam, the day’s second port of call. Rain had recently soaked the outer deck areas and a refreshing chill nipped at my cheeks and ears after nearly two months of scorching Mediterranean and California heat. It was finally time to don that down jacket and wool cap!

Vik viewing on forward/starboard Sun Deck.

Part of me envied the passengers who would get to see our beautiful ship from the perspective of a speeding tender and another part of me was happy to enjoy the rest of the morning on board as we continued onward through a portion of the 200 kilometer Sognefjord, Norway’s longest, with a width of 1.5 kilometers and an average depth of 1,300 meters.

Steaming saucer over Sognefjord.

At breakfast in the Lido, the eggs were fresh and the black bread delicious. I mistook the German curd for thick yogurt and tried to eat it Greek style, topped with honey but that just did not cut it. A sizzling hot cappuccino in the Volga Bar did, however.

Steam bellows from the hourglass.

Facing fjord-ward from starboard wing.

Facing forward for Flam.

Flam forward.

The GORKIY spent the rest of the morning sailing through Sognefjord to Aurlandsfjord and the town of Flam, at its end. At noon, we berthed under a jagged backdrop of thickly forested mountains flecked with the early hues of autumn.

Double fjord GORKIY stern shot.

Garland of fog and SS MAXIM GORKIY at Flam.


After lunch in the Lido, we went ashore to take photos of the ship in the mirror-like waters, stirred only by a passing boat or two and the intermittent drizzle. A sight for sore ship lovers’ eyes, the MAXIM GORKIY’s angular, balanced profile is as bold and innovative today as it was when she entered service in 1969: flared, long bow with a sharp rake atop a prominent bulb; square-jawed superstructure with perfectly-proportioned wheelhouse; towering mast to complement the celebrated funnel and gently sloped afterdecks culminating in a voluptuously rounded cruiser stern.

Bergen-bound train at Flam. Photo by and copyright Mike Masino 2008

Christopher departed on the afternoon train to Bergen, homeward on urgent business after just two short days aboard the GORKIY.

A grim girl in the shop adjacent to the station sold me internet time on their computer for a lofty price, claiming there was no wifi in the region. Later, I noticed several of the ship’s staff with their laptops at an outdoor cafe, so went back to the cabin to retrieve my Macbook and made a quick blog post via their friendlier and cheaper wifi airwaves. MAXIM GORIKY lingered majestically over my left shoulder, emitting those whale-like shudders as I typed away.

Midships pool area facing starboard.

Port Winter Garden, facing forward.

Random MAXIM GORKIY carpet shot.

There was time to capture a few more areas of the ship, including the smoke-saturated port side Winter Garden before going back ashore without the computer for a quick climb up the grassy slope with fellow nuts Bruce Peter, Luis Miguel Correia and Raquel Sabino Pereira. Two sheep stuck their noses through a wire fence at us, yearning for a friendly scratch, as we passed by.

On the way back to the GORKIY, I had a few moments to visit the train museum, which, unlike most of Norway, is open free of charge.

Once back on board, I fought the narcotic effects of the meclizine rather vainly, missing both our sailaway and proper dinner in the Crimea. So, I headed solo to the Lido Cafe for a mountain of salad doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with fresh parmesan. Monella Caspar joined me for a delightful conversation about world politics, social consciousness, music, and the pitfalls of the music industry. Monella is the “blond” half of a Berlin-based duo called Schwarzblond, whose show I had missed on the first night of the cruise. I looked forward to catching their next performance later in the week.

Rossiya Lounge, by day, facing starboard.

I made a point of grabbing a midnight sweet in the lovely Rossiya Lounge on forward Lido Deck before retiring. In addition to a panorama of windows on three sides, it boasts some wonderful lucite light fixtures like those in the Volga Bar and a large, detailed model of the MAXIM GORKIY. Like the ROTTERDAM’s Ritz Carlton, the GORKIY’s Rossiya Lounge has a unique brass dance floor that gets its fair share of use when the band plays on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alesund, Norway. Photo and copyright Michael J. Masino 2008.

My now established morning routine was to clamber up to deck, bedhair concealed in wool cap, as GORKIY arrived in a gorgeous Norwegian hamlet, snap a few photos and dash off to the Lido for a satisfying breakfast of eggs, muesli, and fresh fruit. Today’s locale was sparkling Alesund, where our ship would berth with port side to the terminal just long enough to let the tour group depart, then cast her lines and steam off to the ultimate jewel, Geiranger.

With a population of 41,000, Alesund is located on a series of small islands connected to the mainland via undersea tunnels and bridges. It was destroyed by fire in 1903, rebuilt in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style and was made a partner city in the European Art Nouveau network in 1999.

Alesund-rise! Photo and copyright Michael J. Masino 2008.

As we left the picturesque sea port behind, the sun broke dramatically through the low lying cloud cover. My routine continued with a quick workout and more photos of the ship before we entered Geirangerfjord at noon.

As cruise director Klaus’ soothing German commentary must have told us, the Geirangerfjord is a 15 kilometer branch of the Storfjord (also known as the Great Fjord) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several abandoned farms line the cliffy slopes, which are possibly the most dramatic in Norway. One wonders if he also told us about a particular ledge, Akerneset, which is eroding considerably and threatens to collapse, creating a tsunami large enough to destroy the towns of Hellysylt and Geiranger, at either end of the fjord?

Four or five out of seven dried up
sisters. Photo and copyright Michael J. Masino 2008.

Several spectacular waterfalls plunge from Geiranger’s cliffs, most noteably the Seven Sisters (who seemed a bit withered after what must have been a dry summer) and, across from them, the gushing Suitor.

Fjord fantasy: Geir-angelfish 07.

Fjord fantasy: Christopher’s Kyte.

Fjord fantasy: Basalt twister.

The early afternoon light produced a spectacular mirror effect on the water, stirring the imagination with a mind-blowing combination of shadow, ripples and color.

Geiranger GORKIY.

We arrived at Geiranger at approximately 1:30. After lunch, Mike and I rode the tender back and forth with the sole purpose of videotaping and photographing the GORKIY in her serene setting. The tender captain and linesman seemed to be used to people hanging out of the openings, cameras pointed at the ship. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a good shot without a portion of the boat in the foreground.

At season’s end, Geiranger was very quiet with only MAXIM GORKIY’s small horde of tourists wandering through its largely shuttered up shops and cafes. I found a lovely, free wifi spot outside the rather deserted looking Geiranger Hotel to post some blog photos. I next met Mike near a little church on the hillside as MAXIM GORKIYs shudder reverberated through the stony sea canyon. He lingered in town with the laptop as I rode the tender back and forth one last time, hoping to get that elusive footage of our majestic ship.

Over stern from Sun Deck level, leaving Geiranger behind.

In the early evening twilight, the GORKIY hoisted her last tender and turned about in the anchorage. A canon saluted us from a rocky crag, receiving a nice steam whistle response. The GORKIY and Geiranger were bidding good bye for the final time.

Passing between sisters and their suitor for the last time as MAXIM GORKIY.

Grieg’s “Morning Suite” from Peer Gynt was played over the ship’s sound system as MAXIM gently parted the now obsidian-like waters, her veil of smoke and steam hovering between the impossibly beautiful cliffs.

The FJORD 1 slips past, bound for Geiranger from Hellysylt.

The little FJORD 1, the spruce ferry linking Geiranger with Hellysylt, passed on our port side as we headed down to Cabin 484 to make a quick change before dinner. Navigating around the mainly heavy meat courses, my choices this evening were the chicken dumpling soup, vinaigrette veggies, salmon in filo dough, and the ice cream.

Eschewing the lip synching Ukrainian dancers in the Musiksaloon, I met up with a few friends for another digital Alang slide sob fest in the Zhiguli Club, retiring as the GORKIY pitched somewhere in the open seas on her way to Bergen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008, part one

Blanket over Bergen.

The Norwegian sun shone brightly down on the green suspension bridge outside of Bergen harbor but the city, itself, was completely concealed in a thick swirl of fog as MAXIM GORKIY approached. I spent the morning in the Volga Bar with a cappuccino, blogging a bit as Schwarzblond rehearsed in the neighboring Musiksalon. Tonight’s show promised to be both ecclectic and entertaining!

Soon, the clinking of glasses and the cappuccino maker’s steam were the only sounds reaching my private corner. Gradually, outside the picture windows, the fog melted away, revealing Bergen’s tree-fringed, hilly backdrop and red-roofed cityscape.

MAXIM Hockney.

Phoenix flag.

With the ship largely empty, I had a chance to wander the decks and public areas for some more photos before undertaking my afternoon “mission”.

Captain’s Club, facing aft.

MidCentury mermaid and merman in Captain’s Club.

Beginning with the Rossiya Lounge, I captured a few of the remaining vintage spaces, including the remarkably original and delightful Captain’s Club on forward Lido Deck, with its marquetry paneling, padded leather banquettes, and brass porthole style windows
with “mod” mermaids and fabulously chintzy 1960s brass lamp lighting. Again, another MidCentury MAXIM GORKIY venue that is perhaps more contemporary and stylish now than when it was conceived. Hearty hopes it will remain so!

Chapel, facing forward.

Hidden in the aft vestibule just forward of the Cinema on the port side, there is a dedicated chapel with an original tapestry. Hopefully, it, too, can remain unaltered as the ship enters her third career as MARCO POLO II.

At 1:30 PM, following lunch, I literally ran from the Skolten passenger terminal where the GORKIY was berthed, past the historic Bergenhuis, along the picturesque Bryggen harbor promenade, the fish market and across the neighboring Nordnes peninsula to reach the Hurtigrute terminal in Jektiviken before 2:00 PM to capture the arrival of Hurtigrute’s MV NORDKAPP.

Blog In A Blog: Visit to MV NORDKAPP at Bergen

Year Built: 1996
Shipyard: Kvaerner Kleven, Ulsteinvik, Norway (#265)
Tonnage: 11,386 gt
Dimensions: 404.5 by 63.9 feet (123.30 by 19.50 meters)
Draft: 16 feet (4.90 meters)
Passengers: 460 berths/691 passengers total
Speed: 18 knots

Hurtigruteterminalen, Bergen.

NORDKAPP arrival at Bergen.

NORDKAPP arrival, ctd..

Surprisingly, I arrived ahead of the ship but the balcony on the terminal was locked, so I retreated to a jetty (N. Nostikaien) across the slip and waited. At 2:35, the smart looking vessel (whose balanced modern lines are greatly enhanced by her dressy red and black livery) appeared on the north eastern horizon, gave a three whistle salute and, while approaching, quickly spun about with a list to starboard and berthed stern first at the terminal.


Out of curiosity, I asked the friendly Hurtigrute agent if it would be possible to visit NORDKAPP and was told to come back at 4:00 PM for open house. After a walk back into central Bergen, I returned with Mike and a fellow OLS member, Hugh Lalor, to spend an hour or so on board.

NORDKAPP Panorama Lounge, facing starboard from forward.

NORDKAPP has six passenger decks, beginning at the top with Deck 7, which is fronted by the glass-encircled Panorama Lounge, offering a partially-obscured view over the bow (with inaccessible open deck forward) and unobscured vistas to either side. The central portion of the room sports a skylight with zodiac signs painted in the dome.

The ship’s overall decor seemed reminiscent of the Viking Crowns on most 1990-built Royal Caribbean ships with faux wood tones, brass accents, glass, and varying shades of blue and turquoise.

The gallery-like Svalbard Salon follows the Panorama Lounge in the midship narrows of Deck 7.

NORDKAPP’s aft Deck 7 Deck, facing forward.

Aft Deck 7 is a fairly limited Sun Deck space on either side and aft of the funnel housing. The NORDKAPP is more of a “working” ship than a cruise ship and operates largely on cold weather itineraries, hence the lack of a large pool and lido. She serves the Bergen to Kirkenes route with 31 stops northbound and 30 stops southbound. She also operated on Antarctica cruises but has not returned since sustaining damage after grounding off Deception Island on 31 January 2007. The NORDKAPP was evacuated, repaired and eventually returned to Hurtigrute coastal service.

Deck 6 contains the bridge, officers’ accommodation and a variety of passenger cabins. On the verandah at the stern, there are jaccuzzis on either side.

Deck 5 has a fully-encircling outdoor promenade and more cabins.

NORDKAPP Nessekongen Restaurant, facing starboard from aft.

Deck 4 begins at the fo’c’sle head and continues aft with the public spaces, which include two large forward meeting rooms, the athwartships Fembornigen Bar, a Library, entrance lobby, shopping area, the Outpost Cafe, and a long Arcade on the starboard side that adjoins an internet center and playroom. At the stern, there is the Nessekongen Rest
aurant, which is served by a galley on the port side.

Deck 3 is devoted to cabins, the reception and a large passenger laundry. Deck 2 contains cabins, a small sauna and gym and a car deck.

Totally random NORDKAPP carpet shot.

The staff on NORDKAPP were very accommodating to my requests for photographs of some of the locked cabins and public rooms, which is greatly appreciated.

The ship’s design and decor is by Oslo-based firm Arne Johansen AS, who are responsible for most of the recent Hurtigrute newbuilds. Her artwork is largely by Karl Erik Harr and depicts the history of the Norwegian coast and the Hurtigrute. A full Decked! tour will be posted in the future.

End of MV NORDKAPP Blog In A Blog

Bit of Bergen.

Although it rains over 200 days a year in Bergen, today’s weather was nothing short of spectacular with piercing blue skies, brilliant sun, and occasional puffs of clouds. The colors and character of the beautiful town were in full Autumn bloom, making our walk back to the GORKIY all the more delightful.

Alas, a small vintage passenger ship caught my eye, so I told Mike to carry on while I went to take a photo of it.

Blog In A Blog: Visit to MV BRUVIK at Bergen

Indre Nordhordland Dampbatlag AS

MV BRUVIK at Bergen.

It was too tempting to not just step on board, so I gingerly crossed the gangway and followed the piped-in music aft through a wood-paneled salon to find the ship’s representative, Jarle Gronvoll, who graciously permitted me to carry on with the documentation, even taking me to the wheelhouse for a quick look.

Referred to by many as a “mini-Hurtigrute”, the BRUVIK was built in 1949 and served on a year-round Bergen to Osterfjord route for thirty years for INDL (Indre Norhordland Dampbåtlag) before being sold to Finnish interests. She returned to Bergen in 1994 and is now operating on summer service to the neighboring fjords from Bergen. The BRUVIK carries 296 deck passengers and is available for private charters and in port functions.

MV BRUVIK, Bridge Deck, facing aft from port.

MV BRUVIK over stern from top deck.

MV BRUVIK fwd from aft deck.


MV BRUVIK, upper lounge, facing forward.

MV BRUVIK, aft lower bar, facing aft.

MV BRUVIK was built at Glommens Mek. Verksted in Fredrikstad, hull number 149. She was ice-strengthened and carried cargo (even cattle) as well as passengers on her original run. After going to Finland, she was largely modernized but still retains a wonderful vintage feel with her wood-paneled interiors and open teak decks.

End Of MV BRUVIK Blog In A Blog

I got so consumed with ship visits that there was no time to get the Macbook and find a spot in Bergen where I could work on the blog. Instead, I returned to the GORKIY and got ready for dinner, which included some rather tasty onion cakes, an unusual cheese spread appetizer on pumpernickel, a heaping of the salad bar offerings, a bland main course of rice-stuffed bell peppers and ice cream. We were so engaged in conversation with the wonderful Tony Cooke (the man behind Carmania Press, which gives us so many important ocean liner books) and Martin Grant, that we missed the initial part of MAXIM GORKIY’s final sailing from Bergen at 9:00 PM.

Under the evening saucer.

Floodlit saucer from midships Sun Deck.

It was still warm outside, despite a slight breeze and the onset of Norwegian night. MAXIM GORKIY had reached the outer harbor by the time I
arrived on deck to discover the magnificent funnel floodlit for the first time since we left Bremerhaven. I made a circle around the ship to capture its nocturnal splendor, then headed back inside to see the show.

Schwarzblond cabaret in the Musicsaloon.

I knew from my dinner conversation with the alluring singer Monella Caspar earlier in the week that the Berlin-based pop duo Schwarzblond would deliver an interesting show. They were “discovered” by a Hapag-Lloyd rep. who had to be very persistent to persuade Monella and her fellow singer/songwriter/keyboardist/didgeridoo player, Benny Hiller, to sing on board the EUROPA. Schwarzblond was pleasantly surprised by the acclaim they received and returned regularly to EUROPA and eventually, the MAXIM GORKIY.

Benny’s vocals span an impressive range from operatic falsetto a la Klaus Nomi to lush mid-range pop. Monella has a striking presence, gracefully commanding the stage and drawing the audience into her sultry Marlene Dietrich meets Lene Lovich cantations. An evening with Schwarzblond is a slice of “Cabaret” meets “Queen From Outer Space” with smatterings of Eartha Kitt, Edith Piaf, Yma Sumac and a few feather boas for extra good measure. To this jaded ex music industry veteran, their show was refreshing, slightly bizarre, cheeky, and thoroughly entertaining.

Another example of how shows on European ships can be so much more interesting and diverse than the technically-enhanced American mega ship Broadway fare.

After returning to the cabin, I wrote a quick note to the captain, delivering it with a copy of ON THE ROAD TO ALANG, to reception.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Does “das vadanya” really mean “good morning?”

I woke up rather late this morning and groggily made my way to the reception to register my credit card on the shipboard account. The wonderful Sondra (who with Hendricka, provided us special English programs and menus each day) informed me that the captain had granted permission for me to visit the bridge and fo’c’sle head. Although I could not take photos in the bridge, this was a pleasant development and a chance to get some nice views of the ship’s “face” from the bow as she cut through a very calm (once again) North Sea. I was told to be on the wing at 12:30 to meet an officer who would accompany me on my photographic quest.

And then, in a hazy harmonic convergence, I ran into OLS’s chairman, Bill Mayes, and coodinator, David Trevor-Jones, who had arranged for me to give a presentation in the Cinema at 3:15.

I suddenly needed a quick work out and a cappuccino…

Mike and I decided on a swim in the indoor pool, but when we arrived at 11:50, it was closing, so we re-routed up to Sun Deck and sloshed around in the heated midships pool as that divine space ship hovered overhead.

Aft from wing over North Sea.

At 12:30, there was no officer on the starboard wing, so I tapped on the wheelhouse windows to find a rather disgruntled officer of the watch, who basically told me to leave. I explained that the captain had granted permission but he said the captain was asleep and left no word with him or the staff captain. I asked him to call reception, which he chose not to do, so headed back down and asked Hendricka if she could help. Moments later, I was back up on the wing with the lovely Sondra, who convinced the officer I was not interloping.

And then, the video camera stopped functioning.

Sovcomflot stowed.

I did get a few still images from the wing (the fo’c’sle was flatly denied) and top of the house before retreating to the Lido for a hurried lunch.

MAXIM Cinema, facing aft/port.

I was to meet the ship’s AV person in the Cinema at 3:00 to connect the computer to the projector. What an honor to be able to give a presentation in the GORKIY’s spectacular, still very original theater with its backlit honey-comb paneling! Unfortunately, it soon became apparent the GORKIY’s cable was incompatible with my computer.

TomTom, the AV Angel of MAXIM GORKIY.

Tom Menges, the AV technician, had a solution. We transferred my PowerPoint presentation to a memory stick and uploaded it to his computer, which was compatible.

The show was back on, thanks to Tom! Via powerpoint, a very kind group of OLS members partook of my second and third visits to Alang to see the former EUGENIO C, WINDSOR CASTLE and PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT. I think I can safely say that all of us are grateful that MAXIM GORKIY will be spared such a fate.

Master’s view of the North Sea.

Afterwards, Tom hosted a round of cappuccinos in the Volga Bar before escorting us to the top decks for some quick photos, in appreciation of our appreciation for the MAXIM GORKIY.

Professor Bruce Pete
r focuses on midships Promenaden Deck Gallerie MidCentury ceiling.

Midships MidCentury MAXIM ceiling detail: Promenaden Deck Gallerie.

That gloomy realization that every good thing must come to an end had returned.

Had I gotten all the photos I needed? Although the ship would thankfully return in a new guise, she might not do so with all of her splendid MidCentury features intact. Another round with the cameras followed for a final documentation. Apparently, I was not alone.

No, No, Ninotchka! Marina pours the champagne for Professor Peter on final gala eve aboard MAXIM GORKIY.

At dinner, we said good bye to our trio of Ukrainian waitresses, who seemed almost gleeful as they paraded around the Baked Alaska and champagne, in addition to shots of amber-colored vodka.

Blogger with a blue “Schwarz” (Benny Hiller) and a red “Blond” (Monella Caspar).

The final night’s gala show featured all the shipboard talent in the very packed Musiksalon, with Schwarzblond cheered back for an encore.

Ocean Liner Society gathering in the Volga Bar.

There was one last romp through the Volga Bar, where old and new friends had gathered for a toast to the MAXIM GORKIY, which was now pitching quite pronouncedly, in the mild to moderate seas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Double Phoenix “rising” from the Bremerhaven haze.

Andreas Geiges returns with a splendid view of the GORKIY from ALBATROS. Photo and copyright Andreas Geiges 2008.

Hoping to get footage of AMADEA (ex ASUKA) arriving with MAXIM GORKIY and ALBATROS, I was up on deck by 8:00 AM to find an impossibly thick fog obscuring everything beyond the dew-covered railing. I retreated to the Lido for my final MAXIM GORKIY breakfast, spotting a maneuvering ALBATROS off our starboard side but she disappeared in the vanilla yogurt haze before I could dig out the cameras.

Gloomy greeting at Bremerhaven.

ALBATROS re-emerged from the fog and proceeded to berth behind us, stern to stern, just as she had on the first day but now with AMADEA tied up off her bow. The cranes over the terminal soon came into view as the GORKIY cast her lines ashore.

Left to right: Distinguished maritime author and photographer, Luis Miguel Correia, Raquel Sabino Pereira of Atlantico Azul blogspot, Julius Busecke and Andreas Busecke near the midships pool.

We disembarked at 9:30 and, after Tom helped locate our luggage (we missed the notation about a green colored tag in the program), we were off on a coach and some alarmingly crowed trains to Hamburg before flying home. Auf Wiedersehen to the MAXIM GORKIY and, soon, a big hello to MARCO POLO II!

Wishing Orient Lines much success with this remarkable ship and hopes that her MidCentury beauty will be left intact as much as possible, SOLAS 2010 permitting.

Huge props to the Ocean Liner Society for a delightful cruise with a special group of people. Three cheers to Hendricka, Sondra, Tom and all those on the MAXIM GORKIY who made us feel so welcome.

Special thanks: Martin Cox, Andreas Geiges, Christopher Kyte, Tom Menges, Oliver Mueller, Patrick Wetter

Finished: 10-1-08. Finalized: 10-2-08

January 8, 2009 Update: Following the “non-start” of Orient Lines, the MAXIM GORKIY was laid up at Piraeus after discharging her last Phoenix passenger on October 30, 2008. On January 8, it was reported that she was sold for scrap at Alang and being readied for her final voyage to the breakers. MAXIM GORKIY was beached under the name MAXIM M at Alang on February 25, 2009.

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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